Management and control of internal parasites in horses

Signs of Parasite Infestation

Contrary to popular belief, many horses that have dangerous parasite levels appear to be perfectly healthy. From the outside they may be fat, sleek, and shiny, while on the inside worms are doing irreparable damage. But in other horses, especially young ones, parasites can take a visible toll.

Signs of infestation might include:

  • dull, rough hair coat
  • lethargy or decreased stamina
  • weight loss, coughing and/or nasal discharge
  • tail rubbing and hair loss
  • resistance to the bit

Ascarids in horses

Internal parasites are small organisms that live a portion of their life cycle in a host animal–in this case, the horse. They live in internal organs, body cavities, and tissues while gaining their nutritive source by feeding on the host animal. The horse is affected by many different species of parasites. The nature and extent of damage varies with the parasite.

Parasite infestation causes loss of nutrients or blood from the host, resulting in serious medical problems. Horses heavily burdened …

Wrap a leg below the knee or hock

Proper Way to Wrap the Cannon Bone

wrapping a cannon bone

Numbers correspond to leg drawings above. Note all hand positions.

  1. Make sure leg is cleaned, dried, and ready for routine dressing.
  2. Apply medicated gauze pad and wrap with a flexible bandage such as Kling Gauze.
  3. Progressively turn the bandage wrap, moving downward.
  4. Turn the wrap back up the leg well below injury.
  5. End well above the injury, just below the knee.
  6. Finish primary wrap.
  7. Apply padding to relieve tension.
  8. End of padding should

Nutrients and Common Feed Sources for Horses

Scopes of Grain


Feeding the horse is not difficult, but to do it properly, it takes knowledge and consistent attention. Nutritionists and owners must constantly evaluate their feeding program to ensure that their horses are receiving proper nutrition.


A nutrient is defined as any feed constituent that is necessary to support life. The following is a list of functions that nutrients perform in the horse’s body:

  • source of energy
  • component of body structure
  • involved in or enhance chemical reactions in the

Feeding a Horse for Maintenance

eating hay

Maintenance is a component of all physiological states, defined as no net gain or loss of any nutrients. The nutrients required for maintenance are utilized for daily body functions, such as: metabolism during rest (heart function, breathing, digestion, nervous tissue function), activity for maintenance (walking to food/water, grazing), and temperature regulation.

Horses at maintenance include those kept in pasture and those occasionally used for work for short periods of time. The energy requirement for maintenance is low and can often …

Feeding a Growing Horse

Two foals

The growing period from birth to 12 months of age is a critical time in a horse’s life because 90 percent of mature height and 80 percent of mature weight are achieved during this time. This surge in growth is largely because foals have a high feed efficiency rate that decreases with age.

All young, growing horses have a high requirement for protein, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, and copper for growth and skeletal development. The concentration of lysine in the diet …

Changing the Diet of Horses

Whether it’s the grain, hay, or time on pasture, any change in the horse’s diet should be spread over several days or weeks. Increases in the amount of grain given to a horse should be added at approximately 0.5 pounds per day until the desired amount of grain is reached. Grain increases may be necessary because of an increase in activity level or for a mare during lactation. If the grain amount is increased too quickly, colic or founder may …

Group Feeding of Horses

Foals eating from a creep feeder


In a herd situation, horses establish a dominance hierarchy–a pecking order. In group feeding, you must keep this hierarchy in mind. Aggressive or dominant horses eat more than their share by chasing away others from the feed tubs, and timid horses do not get enough. For this reason, adequate feeder space should be available.

Young horses show little aggressive dominant behavior towards other horses during feeding. Mature horses, however, will show aggressive dominant behavior towards their pasture mates during …

Grain Feeding for Horses

Feeding Grain

Horses should be provided the grain meal at the same time as feeding forages. Like hay, grain should be fed from a feeder instead of on the ground to decrease feed losses and contamination by urine and feces. Feeding grain on the ground also increases the horse’s consumption of dirt, which may accumulate in the large intestine and eventually cause sand colic or intestinal impactions. Grain can be provided in wooden, plastic, or rubber feed buckets, feed bags, …

Common Feeding Programs for Horses

Class of Horse Determines Nutrient Requirements

Horse Head

The National Research Council (1989) has published a guide to feeding horses entitled “Nutrient Requirements of Horses.” These requirements are based on several factors, including:

  • class of the horse
  • body weight
  • body condition
  • stage of production
  • age
  • activity level
  • growth.

Diet selection for each class or activity level of the horse will depend on the nutrient requirements for that particular class of horse and which ingredients are selected to meet those requirements. Horses should …